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Jeu D'Esprit (2010)

For two trumpets

This work was composed as a gift at the request of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra for their spring 2010 gala
First performance by the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York, NY, 15 April 2010
Duration: 3 1/2 minutes

Version for two saxophones (this is in the higher key version)

Program Note

Jeu D'Esprit is a highly virtuosic three-minute fanfare whim, which connects, combines, and transforms majestic motives with ornamental materials (which are almost Baroque-like in their arabesques and trills).  Given that there are only 2 instruments, and they can each only play one note at a time, I worked hard to give the illusion that this fanfare is about harmony.  This, despite that we never hear more than two notes played together.  It is at times fiery, at times fluid and generally ablaze with energy.

The work was made as a gift to the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra who asked for a fanfare for their spring 2010 gala fundraiser. The music is dedicated to Connie Steensma and Lizabeth Newman for their leadership, passion and generosity.

Although my music is highly notated, precise, carefully structured, thoughtfully proportioned, and so forth...and although you may have several musicians elegantly working together, from the very specific text, I like my music to have the feeling that it is organically being self-propelled — on the spot.  As if we listeners, the audience, are overhearing a CAPTURED IMPROVISATION.

I like my music to be played so that the "inner-life" of the different rhythmic syntaxes is specific, with characterized phrasing of the colors and harmonies, etc. — keeping it ultra alive — such that it always sounds spontaneous.

For their sublime precision and technical mastery, I deeply thank these players who today are playing my notations in this way.

— Augusta Read Thomas


This work, from this very same score, can also be performed by:

2 Horns in F (sounding a perfect fifth lower)
2 Soprano Saxophones in Bb (sounding a major second lower) -High Key Version (this matches the recording above)
2 Soprano Saxophones in Bb (sounding a major second lower)-Low Key Version
2 Oboes
2 Clarinets in Bb (sounding a major second lower)

A version of this work, which is entitled Top-Notch and which is notated one octave higher can be performed by:

2 Piccolos (or alternatively by 2 flutes, but only if 2 piccolos are not available.  The extreme piercing and intense quality of the piccolos' register is the composer's preference.)  This version is dedicated to Andreas Waldburg-Wolfegg.

If you wish to play TOP-NOTCH, please order from G. Schirmer the SORANO SAX version: top part starts on a concert G5.

FERMATAS: Please vary the durations of each normal, round-in-shape, fermata.  Some can be 2 or 3 seconds, others 4, etc. such that they do not become predictable. In this way, each performance will be slightly different from one another.  Their duration should depend on the resonance of the brass instruments in the performance space.  The square fermatas should be even longer than the normal, round-in-shape, fermatas, ranging from 4 to 5 to 6 seconds, or longer if the concert hall is extremely resonant. The pointed fermatas are the shortest of the three fermata types. 

Very often, there are fermatas in the middle of a phrase, or suddenly in the middle of a fast running passage.  They are meant to "throw off" the pulse and add to the unpredictability and to the desired "un-square-ness" of the flow.  They are often an effort to "write-in" very flexible rubato and to add expressivity and chamber music virtuosity.

A TEMPO: Unless a new tempo is specified, then after each fermata, please return to the previous tempo. In other words, "A TEMPO" is not marked each time, but is implied and wanted.

DURATION: Approximately 3 minutes and 20 seconds, depending on the duration of the fermatas.

FORM:  Despite the constant shift of character and colors, the composition consists of four main phrases: Bar 1-14; Bar 15-24; Bar 25-33; and then from Bar 34 to the end.  The final phrase has several distinct sub-phrases, which gradually ebb toward the final bar.  Performances should make explicit to the audience this very clear and simple four-part form. 

PERFORMANCE SPACE: Because of the piercing, brassy and bright nature of the instrumentation, it is suggested that this work be played in a resonant and mid-sized concert hall.  It should be heard with some distance, not "close-up" nor in a small room.  The piece should be performed with the two trumpets standing at the center of the front of the stage and preferably reading from one score that they share.

To obtain examination or performance material for any of
Augusta Read Thomas's works, please contact G. Schirmer Inc..